Collecting information and discovery
Once you’ve hired your divorce lawyer, you must gather all relevant information for your lawyer’s perusal:
- Full names, addresses, phone numbers, and Social Security or Social Insurance numbers of you, your spouse, and your children;
- The date of marriage, date of cohabitation, county or region where the wedding occurred, the wife’s maiden name, and any information about prior marriages of either spouse (including the names and prior names of ex-spouses);
- A copy of your premarital agreement (or other domestic contract) and information about any prior legal proceedings, separations, or marital counseling during the marriage;
- All available financial data, including: income-tax returns from the past several years; a recent pay slip; the major assets and liabilities of both you and your spouse; budget worksheets; insurance policies; credit-card statements; wills; and any credit or mortgage applications.
Unless you create a separation agreement, your lawyer will use this as a starting point for the discovery process. The lawyer gets as much specific information about the marriage as possible, to work out the financial and children’s issues fairly. Most of discovery involves financial matters, for which your lawyer needs specific, accurate details. From the value of items you bought during the marriage to stocks, pensions, and revenue from a business, you and your professionals (e.g. lawyers, mediators, financial planners, accountants, appraisers, etc.) have to retrieve documentation of every dollar value — including that of premarital assets. For articles on preparing for a deposition and separation agreement, click here.
Contested vs. uncontested divorce
There are two general types of divorce. If you and your spouse can’t agree on the divorce terms — or if one of you doesn’t want the divorce — it’s a contested divorce, and a judge will decide the outcome if you can’t come to agreement on your own. In an uncontested divorce, both of you agree on how to divide your assets and debts, who gets custody and pays child support, and whether one spouse needs to pay spousal support to the other. Obviously, an uncontested divorce will be faster and simpler. But even a divorce that starts with major disagreements can be worked out if you choose to make it that way, and the majority of cases do settle.
If you’re in the United States, ask your lawyer if you’re eligible for a “summary” divorce. This is a simpler and faster divorce process which involves less paperwork, fewer court appearances, and less time in negotiation. However, this will only work if your marriage was relatively short and if you have no children, little property, and no intention to seek spousal support. In Canada, the closest would be an uncontested divorce or a joint application.